POSTED ON MARCH 19, 2008:
Yes Guys, You Heard Me Right
Menswear welcomes the sheer beauty and joy of bright colors and nylon
Get Your Kicks. Shoes with atypical colors are for everyone. For real flair, try a nearly monochromatic show. A shoe in bright blue (or red), with a limited amount of white detailing is eye-catching.
Sometimes you just expect flashy eccentric looks from someone. Like if you went to a Prince concert. If Prince walked onto the stage wearing a purple suit or something made from velvet or assless pants, you wouldn't look twice. That's obvious Prince attire. If he came out on stage in a navy button down and worn jeans, you'd be jarred.
That's how I felt recently in a concert at Cain's. I was there to see the band Wilco--a group of standard guys that play really good music. They are the performers who wear the same navy button down and worn jeans nearly every time you see them. But on this night, lead singer Jeff Tweedy performed all night long in a white Nudie suit with red roses, red cardinals and rhinestone embellishments on the torso and sleeves.
I shouldn't have been completely surprised; he wore the same suit the previous weekend while performing a song on Saturday Night Live. That was a national debut, but two and a half hours in Tulsa? Suddenly my simple band was now so flashy. Those unfamiliar with the Nudie suit branding need only look at images of Elvis or Oklahoma native Porter Wagoner. Dozens of country stars and western actors wore the razzle dazzle suits in their heyday from 1950s to the 1970s. So, while Tweedy's suit was a great homage to the ballroom's country legacy past, it weirded me out. I assumed Tweedy to be a normal guy who happens to be in a well-loved rock band. Average guys don't wear red roses with flair. Right?
Since the concert, I have become aware that men's fashion is changing to allow for something more extreme. Not necessarily rhinestoned Nudie suit extreme (at least not yet), but certainly fashion for the typical male is broadening. I say for the typical male because, for years, runways and advertisements in fashion magazines have displayed emaciated pale boy-males or overly bronzed underwear model types wearing bizarre menswear. Flipping through a magazine the other day, I saw a fashion ad featuring a gaunt man wearing what appeared to be an elaborately draped white shirt that looked appropriate for a woman and black harem pants with the saggy crotch down to his knees. This is for show. No man wears these looks. He would be persecuted.
Men in recent years haven't tolerated bold changes in their wardrobe. They accept slight adjustments, like the recent acceptance of plaid Madras shorts, but nothing too kooky, like the harsh rejection of man Capri pants in the early 2000s. Colors too have to be basic and bland. The girly classified colors of pink and purple were accepted... and quickly overplayed by the male prepster and the rap star. Really outlandish colors are like a flashback to the 1980s and early 1990s when not a single shade, including Day Glo, was off limits to anyone. This is all so funny because I'm in on the secret-color is back for the boys. It is going to jolt the hell out of you and everyone around you.
Guys seem to have so many things centralized almost entirely to themselves--like playing football, basketball, Nascar, masturbation--and girls get fashion. Like brightly colored skinny jeans. We girls thought we held the market with skinny jeans, but when you guys started wearing them, we turned the tables and began wearing our skinny jeans in shades of red, cobalt blue and metallics. Now it seems girls only have skirts and dresses in their corner because several denim houses are making men's colored denim.
Get Your Kicks
I've noticed balls-to-the-wall bright orange, teal, bright yellow, and, my favorite, bubblegum pink. These attention grabbing beauties should be paired with a very low-key shirt like a solid color (black and white are great) t-shirt or an interesting graphic tee. In addition to shades that would make Rainbow Bright jealous, very light denim is making a return.
I'm talking about jeans so light that, when paired with a white t-shirt, it's difficult to discern where the white ends and the denim begins. To keep from looking too heroin chic a la Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting, top your light denim with something colorful, like an obnoxiously shaded tee or polo with some stripes that just pop. Then slip into a pair of flashy kicks to end the look.
I love the word "kicks" to discuss footwear; writing it is almost as fun as the shoes themselves. The broad term athletic or tennis shoe is a real turn off. Logical for athletic prowess, the shoes seem too bulky and bland for times outside of physical endurance. One white chunky athletic shoe looks remarkably like all the other white chunky athletic shoes. But with the changes to men's tennis shoes, no two seem alike now.
For starters, shoes for men seem to be shaped differently, with a less bulky sole. While I have no idea what that does for comfort (I'm a girl--we don't have logic with concerns for shoes and comfort), I know that it sure looks better. In addition, high tops are coming back; but they require a particular participant. It takes someone with a certain air and a certain complimentary ensemble to make the high top work.
But shoes with atypical colors are for everyone. For real flair, try a nearly monochromatic shoe. A shoe in bright blue with a limited amount of white detailing is eye catching. If you want multiple shades, and to keep from looking like a clown, pick a shoe with a base in one of the standard shoe shades--white, black, tan or dark grey. To this base shade, find a pair that has no more than two additional colors. And make those colors noticeable. Navy blue and black on a dark grey shoe elicit no response. Shoes with a tan base and maroon and light yellow details are interesting.
Full Body Swoosh
And lastly, the nylon jacket is making its return. This look is a little different than the jeans and tennis shoes. A nylon jacket announces your presence when you walk into a room, but not in the same way as a flash of bright color. The jackets are coming back in a cornucopia of colors, but the real zing a person gets from the nylon jacket is that swish sound. Ah, that undeniable sound of nylon against nylon...
Nylon jackets aren't all that bad in terms of a trend to reinstate. It's mildly mockable because it used to be connected strongly to a matching pair of nylon pants, creating a body swoosh. A smidgen above a pair of sweatpants, the nylon tracksuit has not returned in its full glory. Companies like American Apparel may be making nylon dresses and mini skirts for the gals, but you boys are restricted to nylon above the waist only.
Stick to a solid colored windbreaker. If you opt out of the wild colored jeans, pick a flashy shade in the windbreaker--any concern about being too bold can be easily fixed with an unzip and removal. Nix any styles that feature an elastic band at the waist; it's outdated and rarely flatters anyone. Also don't indulge in any nylon jacket that seems sport branded. I've no doubt your black Adidas jacket with the three white stripes down each sleeve was pretty awesome at some point, but that point is not today.
Certainly the nylon jacket isn't a crazy departure from regular dude wear, but it might be the step in the direction of a pair of lavender (that's a light shade of purple) shoes or light pink jeans. And hell, once you've become that pizzazzed, a rhinestone studded Nudie suit may be just around the corner. Rhinestones and red roses may be the only way to top men's pink jeans.
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